Doncic makes final All-Star push as Mavs face Pacers

STATS/TSX

Luka Doncic takes his All-Star campaign to the Midwest on Saturday night when the Dallas Mavericks open a two-game trip against the Indiana Pacers.

The rookie sensation ranked second to LeBron James among Western Conference frontcourt players when the most recent fan-voting tabulations were announced this week.

Balloting ends Monday night, giving Doncic two more games -- both on the road -- to get enough votes to remain ahead of the likes of Paul George, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis in a loaded Western race.

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The Mavericks (20-24) will wrap up their trip Monday at Milwaukee.

They won't have second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. on the trip, coach Rick Carlisle said Friday. Smith has missed the past four games while reportedly being frustrated with his role and having heavy friction with Carlisle.

Multiple reports claim Smith is upset that his role is different this season with Doncic evolving as the leader of the offense. Smith is averaging 12.6 points, 3.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds this season. As a rookie, he averaged 15.2 points, 5.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds.

Doncic has saved some of his best performances for the road this season, with his three highest-scoring games -- 34 at New Orleans, 32 at Los Angeles (Clippers) and 31 at San Antonio -- all coming away from home.

Two of his three points/assists double-doubles have come at Minnesota and Denver, while three of his four points/rebounds double-doubles have come at Portland, Memphis and Charlotte.

The 19-year-old has done just fine at home as well, even if his teammates haven't of late. The Mavericks are coming off back-to-back home losses to Golden State and San Antonio despite 26- and 25-point efforts by the rookie.

Doncic got an endorsement earlier this week from Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who should know a little something about All-Stars. After all, he vowed to start five of last year's All-Stars against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, making the Warriors the first team to accomplish that feat since the 1967 Boston Celtics.

"He's a brilliant player. I think he's already an All-Star," Kerr said of Doncic. "I don't know how the vote's gonna shake out, but he looks like an All-Star player to me."

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban remains hopeful.

"It would mean a lot to our fans and obviously to Luka," he noted recently. "He has worked hard and is creating a lot of excitement for Mavs fans. An All-Star berth would only make it more exciting."

Selecting 20 picks later, the Pacers (29-15) predictably haven't gotten the same type of production out of their top rookie, guard Aaron Holiday, who has seen his playing time whittle down to next-to-nothing in recent games.

After scoring in double figures six times, including five games in a row, earlier this season, Holiday has played six or fewer minutes in the Pacers' past 10 games, never leaving the bench on four of those occasions.

Holiday's playing time would figure to increase should the Pacers decide to give struggling Victor Oladipo more time off to deal with a right knee that some observers believe is still bothering him despite sitting 11 games bridging November and December.

He found himself playing doctor after a second consecutive subpar effort in Thursday's blowout home loss to Philadelphia.

"I'm not injured," he said to reporters after scoring 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting. "If I'm injured I wouldn't be playing. I'm perfectly fine. I have no worries."

--Field Level Media

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